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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Version For American Decorators - The UK Version is Cake Chic
This is a book of spectacular-looking cookies and cakes as the title suggests but be warned that it is published for the American decorator as there are no metric weight measurements or celcius oven temperatures in this volume. Wish someone had told me that earlier as now I will have to convert.
If you're after the same with metric measurements then you'll need to...
Published on April 21, 2010 by Robert

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Book
This is a beautiful book to place on a coffee table or good reading. I made a couple of the recipes and was dissapointed on how the cakes cake out. I followed the recipes and the cakes were a bit heavy and not sweet at all. I have been told that European cakes are not supposed to be sweet, but I was hoping these recipies would be a little different. I will try to make...
Published on October 29, 2011 by Jenheart


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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Version For American Decorators - The UK Version is Cake Chic, April 21, 2010
This review is from: Simply Spectacular Cakes: Beautiful Designs for Irresistible Cakes and Cookies (Hardcover)
This is a book of spectacular-looking cookies and cakes as the title suggests but be warned that it is published for the American decorator as there are no metric weight measurements or celcius oven temperatures in this volume. Wish someone had told me that earlier as now I will have to convert.
If you're after the same with metric measurements then you'll need to buy Peggy Porschen's Cake Chic (the UK edition).
That aside, the book itself is gorgeous to look at and would make a beautiful coffee table book if you don't bake.

The amazing thing, which Peggy achieves so effortlessly in all her books, is the ability to translate fashion into food and her cakes and cookies are all catwalk-ready. The cakes and cookies here are all very stylish and not one cake or cookie ever gives the impression that it is over-decorated. The result is always just right and ever-so-chic.

The cakes and cookies in this book are very rich-looking, celebratory creations and certainly not for your average bake sale but everything does evolve around a few very simple recipes - Victoria Sponge, royal icing, and sugar syrups.
This is definitely in rhythm with the author's other books. This is a decorating book not a baking book.

For decorating cookies, it is good to see the author return to the traditional iced biscuit and make use of Royal Icing techniques.
The cakes are all fondant-based designs.

I am amazed to see the author achieve all her gorgeous piping designs with a pastry bag made from silicon paper - a technique she shares. Not a metal tip in sight! Certainly, this attests to Peggy's skill with icing. I'm not sure if I'm willing to give up my icing tips just yet.

This a book is not likely to suit a Master decorator as the techniques for gum paste flower-making and piping are all very basic and achievable for many beginner decorators. You will probably need to look into a sugar-crafting book for that purpose but Simply Spectacular Cakes is a great book to make fancy-looking cakes from a home kitchen.

Instructions are straight-forward and are simple enough for a beginner decorator but you will need the tools of the trade. Peggy outlines all the ingredients and equipment required and stops short only of providing fully photographed step-by-step instruction. Every finished cake and cookie is beautifully photographed so there is no guesswork as to what the final product should look like.

Note: It has been several months since my original review when this book was first released. I've decided to change my rating of this book from 4-stars to 5-stars. Since then, I've had the opportunity to add a significant number of cake and cookie decorating books to my collection but for inspiration have found that very few come close to the simple beauty of designs and colours that this book inspires. I think even Master Decorators will find some value in emulating Peggy's gorgeous colour palettes.

This is now a favourite decorating book in my collection. She has a keen eye for perfect colour combinations. I am constantly referring to this book for other non-cake related projects just for colour inspiration. Peggy's understanding of colour palettes are spot on. Always classy and suited to the occasion.

My only gripe about this particular title was that I wish I had purchased the UK version of this title (Cake Chic) to save having to convert measurements when baking and decorating. I wish this point had been made more explicit at point-of-purchase. This does seem to be a problem with another of her titles too so do your research and make sure you are purchasing the right book for your personal preferences.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply exquisite!, May 3, 2010
By 
Toni "the bookworm" (Chicago, Illinois United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Simply Spectacular Cakes: Beautiful Designs for Irresistible Cakes and Cookies (Hardcover)
My long and excited anticipation of this book was not in vain.........it truly is simply exquisite! This has been on the top of my book wishlist for quite some time and like a child, I thought it would never get here. But it has finally arrived and I couldn't be happier with its beautiful contents!

Peggy Porschen has once again given us delicate and achievable cake projects with which any cake decorating aficionado would agree. While this might not challenge an experienced or professional decorator, I feel this is geared towards those of us who are in awe of how the professionals do it and we gratefully thank those who take the time to teach us.

Having said that, I feel this book is geared towards someone with a solid foundation of cookie and cake decorating abilities. You need to know why and how the materials and mediums are used and why you could not substitute one for another such as why you can't use regular icing for royal icing or why fondant cannot be subbed for gumpaste. Though Peggy is quite good at explaining the process in detail, you still need to possess a basic foundation of cake/cookie decorating, though once you do, this book will become a great companion in which to further build your skills and confidence. And lastly, yes, she only uses paper pastry bags in which to decorate so no tips and pastry bags are used; this helps in cutting down on costs for bags, couplers, and tips, plus it is all disposable. But if you have them, I would encourage folks to use them as I am used to them and find it easier.

Peggy has teamed up again with Georgia Glynn Smith, her photographer of her previous book, "Pretty Party Cakes" to deliver large, sharp, close-up, detailed, and well-styled photographs of her projects. Combine that important necessity when presenting a teaching book, along with a great teaching style, and bright, happy colors, and you have a book that is a real treasure.

The contents begin with cookies, then go to mini-cakes such as cupcakes, petit fours, and individual cakes, then to large cakes. Each project begins with the list of ingredients and supplies necessary followed by directions which are layed out step-by-step. The supplies for the various-sized and shaped cookies cutters can be purchased at many cake and cookies decorating shops or online; she also gives some templates for some of the figures needed at the end of the book; more on that later.

And as the first reviewer did mention, there is the matter of weights and measure all done in the standard American system and not metric. I would be curious to write to both Clarkson Potter Pubishers in New York as well as Quadrille Publishing in London to see if the British version of this book has the metric weights listed; I will add an addendum when I find out.

The Contents section of this book contains:
Cookies
Mini-Cakes
Large Cakes
Basics
Glossary
Suppliers
Quantity and Portion Guides
Index
Acknowledgements
Templates

COOKIES
"Ballerina Slippers": The template for this is very simple and you wouldn't need to purchase this cookie cutter because is is such a simple shape. The template could be traced onto a piece of sturdy cardboard (like the ones found on the back of a legal pad) then cut out. The 5 easy steps of piping are quick and easy and this would be a wonderful project for a new baker to cut their teeth on; it would eagerly entice you to other projects.

"The Little Black Dress": Again, a simple project but with spectacular results, as you can customize this to any occasion such as a wedding, prom, etc. For this you could fashion your own template as the outline is simple, though not given in the book.

"Best in Show": Adorable "Scotties" to be decorated in 6 easy steps.

"Pretty in Bows": There are 2 types of bows made in this project with one done free-hand and the other with a cookie cutter. Pretty little pearls dot these delicate presentations either by using actual tiny dragees or using royal icing dots.

"Christmas Baubles": Christmas ornaments with limitless ideas of decorating! Choose any of the various cookie cutters available and then take a cherished or favorite family ornament and recreate the beauty. This would be a wonderful family project during the holidays.

"Silhouette Cookies": This are reminiscent of a cameo brooch or those outlines of childrens faces. Peggy uses the "flooding" method to make the heads.

"I Want Candy": Circles of various "candy" you remember from childhood.

MINI-CAKES
"Damask Delights": These are petit fours coated in chocolate then placed in beautiful silver liners. The icing decor is taken from a beautiful damask pattern in various shades of neon green and red.

"Cameo Cakes": Now this was a real treat for the eyes!! Mini-cakes covered in pink marzipan and fondant, with a centered fondant cameo, then decorated with pearls of white royal icing and brown fondant ribbon. The base of each cake is covered in matching ribbon as the fondant bows. Absolutely exquiste for a very fancy tea party or bridal shower!

"Mini Orangery Cakes": This is a stunner! A mini cake prepped with marizpan and fondant but then a "cage" of royal icing is placed on top! Therefore, within this cage, you can see sugar flowers or whatever small visual feast for the eyes you wish! Lovely!!

"Mini Monogrammed Cakes": Exactly as titled, little individual cakes with letters, or monograms, or numbers to personalize the reason for the occasion.

"Cherry Blossoms": The cover project!! How absolutely delicate and enchanting! Glistening pink petit fours with chocolate bands along the base toppped with delicate pink cherry blossoms! The photography and styling for this particular project was perfect! If you are well-versed in sugar flowers, the sky is the limit in other flowers to use.

"Peggy's Purses": This is definitely more labor intensive but the end result is just adorable. And the sky's the limit on how to decorate and personalize these sweet little purses.

"Cupcakes in Bloom": Silver liners carrying those delectable cupcake goodies with beautiful hydrangea sugar flowers on top.

"Dots & Bows": This project requires you to dip the cupcakes in liquid fondant, then "paint" them with royal icing dots and finish with a gumpaste bow. I have found this to be a very elegant, neat, and sharp way of presenting these cupcakes.

"Ice Crystal Cakes": Wow!! What a treat for a wedding or shower, let alone a Christmas party! Beautiful, small, individual cakes covered in pastel fondant, then royal iced in delicate crystal patterns on top. For a splash of "wow", silver dragees are used in strategic spots to catch your eye!

"French Fancies": Delicate petit fours made up of 3 layers of orange buttercream, covered in pastel fondant icing, a band of chocolate at the base, then decorated with designs of thin chocolate icing on top. Wow!

LARGE CAKES
"Pure White Perfection": An all-white cake that has been covered in white fondant and "painted" with delicate vines using white royal icing. Place a white ribbon band at the base and again, bead it with royal icing pearls. But the real show-stopper of this cake is the simple white flowers you make with graduated small circular cutters (the kind that come in the multiple-sized, shaped cutter sets) to make the leaves. When completed, add some luster or pearl dust and dot the center of the flower with a tiny ball of fondant or a white dragee. An absolute star at a party!

"Summer Symphony": Starting with a 10 inch square base, add 3 more graduating smaller stacks of round cakes, covering each in different pastel colors, then decorate each stack in different patterns and textures. This makes for a most alluring spring or summer cake that will put a smile on anyones face!

"Pink Poodles": LOVE this cake!! As a loyal Francophile, this is a joy. Using the French theme of "Paris and poodles" in reddish-pink and black colors, 3 tiers of graduated square cakes are covered in white fondant. Thin black ribbon with tiny white polks dots is placed around the base. Templates of the Eiffel Tower and poodles can be used to make royal icing run-outs which are then placed on the front of the cake with the Tower on the top tier and those adorable poodles on the bottom tier. The middle tier makes no confusion as to the reason for the event and "Bon Anniversaire" is written with tiny little gumpaste hearts scattered about, and a red ribbon on the top tier. For this cake, rather than use the templates provided, I used Eiffel Tower and poodle cookie cutters to make their outline. Oooh la la!!

"Anemome Cake": Once again, a simple basic cake taken to different limits because of the decorating style used. A round cake covered in white fondant dotted with black royal icing. A large 1-1/4" cream-colored ribbon around the base with another 1" ribbon (black with tiny white polka dots) is then placed around the base on top of the cream-colored ribbon so as to have 2 layers. But the stars of the show are the white anemomes with black centers and stamens, that Peggy teaches you how to make, using anemone petal cutters and gumpaste.

"Mochaccino Dots": A 4 layer rectangular cake with creamy chocolate and vanilla buttercream, and chocolate ganache. Because the sides of the cake are not covered in anything, the cake is beautiful to behold, let alone the round fondant dots, within the palette of the brown family, that are placed on top of the cake, in order to give a contrast to this linear cake.

"Couture Hatboxes": Another time and labor intensive project that will garner you "ooh's" and "aah's" from those who see it. Using the hexagonal shape of your choice (though you can make any shape you wish; round hat boxes come to mind immediately for me), bows, handles, and "leather" stripes are made to create a vintage hat box.

"Coco's Corsage": A tribute to Coco Chanel with it's simple diamond patterned lines against this 2-tiered cream-colored fondant cake, its base wrapped with a 2 inch band of black ribbon with a bow on its top tier then bedecked with a beautiful pearl brooch on the bow. Real, silk, or sugar paste cream roses are placed on top. Coco would swoon!!

"Button Flowers Cake": A most unusual cake consisting of 4 square tiers of 2 different sizes colored in pink, ecru, and peach fondant. The base is wrapped in a thin ecru-colored ribbon. The adornments consist of ivory, peach, pink, and dark brown flowers and "buttons".

"Tiffany Pearls": This was a stunner! 4 various round tiers are covered in pale blue fondant then decorated in the most delicate and tiny royal icing swags and pearl drops. The swags and pearl drops were then painted with pearl luster dust to give them that "pop" that draws your eyes to it. The base of each tier was wrapped in the most tiny white satin ribbon. An excellent choice for a wedding cake. (Once again, the staging of this photograph was perfect as they used a white and pale blue background as well as glass and crystal to present this).

BASICS
"Tools": Numbered photographs of tools used with a corresponding chart to see what you need as your basic equipment list.

"Food Colors": Types of food colors used, their explanations, and their various forms of liquid food colors, paste food colors, blossom tints and dusting colors, edible luster and pearl dust.

"Recipes": Basic sugar cookie recipes and gingerbread cookie recipe. How to line the pans so that your cakes come out easily and unbroken every time (lining is a must for perfect cakes). Recipes for Victoria Sponge Cake, Chocolate Cake, Carrot Cake, Marble Cake, Sugar Syrups (to coat the tops of your cakes and add flavor). Buttercream frosting, Belgian Chocolate Ganache. How to layer and ice cakes (especially those mini cakes; those are the hardest for me so I really appreciated this part). Peggy's favorite cake and filling combinations. Covering, frosting, and assembling large cakes. Covering cake boards (this makes for such a complete and elegant presentation!). Assembling tiered cakes. How to make petit fours. Dipped cupcakes using liquid fondant icing. Different types of royal icing consistencies. How to make a paper pastry bag. Piping techniques.

GLOSSARY: The meaning for the different mediums/terms used in this book.

SUPPLIERS: She gives a listing of known suppliers within the US, Canada, UK, and Asia. (Personal note: For more places within the US, you can just "google" cake decorating supplies and you'll get a further list of places from which you can purchase supplies. Also consider shopping at places such as Hobby Lobby, Michaels or "google" craft stores. And if you feel really ambitious, "google" cake decorating websites and get recipes to make your own fondant, gumpaste, etc as well as how to make your own cookie cutters and such).

QUANTITY GUIDES: A much appreciated chart and explanation of the amounts needed of cake batters, fondant, buttercream, etc when planning your cakes and projects.

INDEX

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: If you see something used in the styling of the projects, Peggy lists where certain products were purchased. A very, very wonderful and thoughtful addition to this book.

TEMPLATES: Templates used for the Ice Crystal project, numbers and calligraphy letters, mini-monogram cakes patterns, template for positioning the dowel supports for your cakes, poodle and Eiffel Tower templates, and the Ballerina Shoes template.

Yes, I know this was a long review, but I just love cake decorating and anything or anyone associated with this art form, and Peggy is definitely one of the best! You will thoroughly enjoy this book and all it will do to enhance your skills. I would also suggest you consider her first book entitled "Pretty Party Cakes".

Enjoy! Peace!

ADDENDUM: I contacted Random House Publishing in New York and asked them if the book is available with metric weights and they were quite quick in responding. Unfortunately, the book is not available in British measurements.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Book, October 29, 2011
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This review is from: Simply Spectacular Cakes: Beautiful Designs for Irresistible Cakes and Cookies (Hardcover)
This is a beautiful book to place on a coffee table or good reading. I made a couple of the recipes and was dissapointed on how the cakes cake out. I followed the recipes and the cakes were a bit heavy and not sweet at all. I have been told that European cakes are not supposed to be sweet, but I was hoping these recipies would be a little different. I will try to make different recipes in the future and use the decorating suggestions in this book. The pictures are beautiful and the book is an easy read.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book., July 3, 2010
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This review is from: Simply Spectacular Cakes: Beautiful Designs for Irresistible Cakes and Cookies (Hardcover)
Beautiful cakes and other ideas. The reason I give it four stars instead of five is because the book gives instruction, but it could have used more detail in the "how to" areas. I'm glad I took some classes, so I kind of knew what she was talking about. I think someone who already has more experience (than me) would have an easier time using this book. However, it is great for inspiration. I think a lovely cake book can make one daydream about what they'd like to make, and this book does that. A book that doesn't spark the imagination isn't worth buying, but this book is well worth it to me. I think that someone who does not know a lot about cake decorating can still get a lot of use out of this book, and might just need to look online to fill in the blanks where they need a little more clarification on how to do certain things. She definitely makes it look easy, but we can all get there with practice.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars not for the beginner, June 27, 2010
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This review is from: Simply Spectacular Cakes: Beautiful Designs for Irresistible Cakes and Cookies (Hardcover)
the recent price reduction for this book on amazon.com was too good to pass up. I was not disappointed. This book is more for the advanced user or intermediate with skills. While reading the text and instructions I had visions of the novice in a heap on the floor just crying with a mess all around. On most of these things, if you don't know what you are doing, or can break the instructions down to managable sections, you will not be able to pull many of these projects off. But with a little previous experience an eye for detail and a steady hand, these projects are worth the time and effort.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The book contains beautiful and classic decorations., May 14, 2014
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This review is from: Simply Spectacular Cakes: Beautiful Designs for Irresistible Cakes and Cookies (Hardcover)
It isn't a modern, latest trends type of book. These are more traditional and classic decorations that still look good and probably will for a while to come. It contains cookies, cupcakes, petit fours, mini cakes, and one-tier to multi-tier cakes in many different levels of complexity. Techniques include fondant (or marzipan), modeling chocolate, gum paste, royal icing and buttercream used as filling. Skills covered are gumpaste flowers and shapes--both from cutters and hand formed--piping, and covering with fondant.

There are both detailed illustrations of the steps and clear written explanations. I wouldn't dive into any of the projects with absolutely no experience but a general knowledge and a little experience should be enough. Within hours of receiving it I attempted the hand-shaped flowers shown on the white-on-white cake and they came out exactly as shown. The instructions were clear and didn't skip any part of the process. Sometimes, you get beginning and ending instructions and you find yourself having to wing it in the middle. Not this time.

About the only project I would never attempt are the projects with silhouettes of children--my drawing talents just don't extend that far and my hands aren't that steady. But just about every other project in the book has potential use. Not just because they are doable but because they are flexible enough to be adapted to any event or situation an average person might have. This is pretty rare in a cake decorating book. Usually there are two or three you really like, and one or two you might find use for and the rest is filler.

A little under 1/3 of the book is dedicated to recipes, lists and photos of tools and supplies (such as food colorings). The recipes are English-inspired ones such as Victoria Sponge cake. In my experience, these generally don't translate well for American tastes. The supply/equipment information is pretty basic and I found only the information on doweling cakes and assembling petit fours to be moderately useful. I would have preferred to have that part of the book contain more cake decorating ideas, but I guess that's a matter of personal preference.

But, on the whole, this book is a pleasure to look through, a great source of ideas, and a definite keeper for my cake decorating shelf.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this book., March 2, 2011
This review is from: Simply Spectacular Cakes: Beautiful Designs for Irresistible Cakes and Cookies (Hardcover)
This book really does have simply spectacular cakes! They are very elegant and they actually inspire me to make cakes just to see if I can make them. I would say that most are for the intermediate cake designer. Love it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Peggy Porschen Cake Designs, August 29, 2011
This review is from: Simply Spectacular Cakes: Beautiful Designs for Irresistible Cakes and Cookies (Hardcover)
This is a spectacular book and is very easy to understand. This lady is a genius at cake decorating and is very generous with her knowledge. would recommend for even the novice cake decorator.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Cameo Obsession, February 8, 2012
This review is from: Simply Spectacular Cakes: Beautiful Designs for Irresistible Cakes and Cookies (Hardcover)
It took me a while to assemble a couple of products I needed to make the Cameo Cakes and I finally was able to make them a couple of months ago! They turned out lovely. (Sculptor friends were impressed that one could mold sugar into such gorgeous shapes). I bought a new Victorian cameo mold on ebay, from the Mold Hut, and it works wonderfully (just make sure your gumpaste is at the right consistency so you won't be disappointed of course).
This book taught me the basic techniques for beautiful cookie decorating, which I used to make beautiful Eiffel Tower cookies (that aren't in the book). I mention it because it shows that the technique was well explained.
I'm looking forward to make more cakes, especially the one on the cover...
I finally found the scriber tool from a new gumpaste set, from Wilton... and am looking forward to using it sometime...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous!, June 15, 2013
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This review is from: Simply Spectacular Cakes: Beautiful Designs for Irresistible Cakes and Cookies (Hardcover)
The book's title says it all! Beautiful photography, helpful photos of techniques and delightful design make this dessert book a real keeper! Worth buying just to drool over. I haven't made anything yet but I hope to make the cakes on the cover very soon -- absolutely adorable.
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